Beauty & EQ: WIFTV Members with Films at VQFF 2018 Part Two

The 30th Vancouver Queer Film Festival is officially underway and one of our WIFTV blog writers, Hanna B, recently took a moment to catch up with five WIFTV members with films screening at the festival. 

Beauty, directed by Christina Willings, is a short documentary exploring the lives of five gender-creative kids through their understanding of themselves, the changes they are going through, their thoughts about how others perceived them, their daily challenges, and their hopes and dreams.

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The film not only tells incredible stories of understanding and acceptance, it is also a timely piece that reflects on current issues as we watch the kids talk about dealing with bullies or discussing relationships and gender with their parents. A notion the director was also personally familiar with, “I’ve always kind of felt gender was a bad experiment – the way it can lock us into being caricatures of ourselves,” explained Willings. She then added that having children at the center of the film to relay this message was crucial, “Listening to a child really has the power to make irrelevant concerns fall away, leaving only what’s important behind – their survival, their happiness, their thriving. Love.”

The film features animated details and surreal sequences that bring something magic, almost like a modern fairy tale, where a child gets to be what they want to be – their true self. Through ups and downs, with beautiful and heart-wrenching moments that illustrate how far we’ve come to have kids be able to freely express themselves and be accepted for who they are. Yet, the world is far from perfect and more changes need to happen, as some discussions in the film surrounding “bathroom issues” and parents not wanting their children “playing with gay kids” will remind us. But this is the right time, a time when these changes can happen, and as Willings stressed, “We now have this window of opportunity as things have allowed it and changes in society.”

Regarding the animation, Willings mentioned she was quite thrilled about the creative freedom she had. “Thanks to the National Film Board of Canada’s involvement in the project, I didn’t have to produce it or finance it. I had the luxury of writing and directing only, which was amazing.” While she had the idea of including the drawings from early on, she explained, “I had never worked with animation, so figuring out how to create a parallel ‘narrative’ track was a new avenue from me.” Moreover, she confirmed that the ideas and imagery, from mermaids to astronauts, all came from the children, who either drew them or gave instructions. “I really drew on collaboration with the children for the animation. I had them send me images, and chat with me about [what] they were really into … I also love the idea that the children somehow had to break through to another dimension, where they could create a reality of their choosing and bring it back with them, to change the way things are, and their own experience, here on earth with the rest of us.”

Another striking thing about “Beauty” is how well-spoken all the kids involved are, even the younger ones. Seeing kids managing to pinpoint and articulate their feelings with simple yet meaningful phrases, such as “I have a girl body, but a boy brain,” or “I think there’s more than one gender” (a sentiment that will be echoed through Orene Askew in ‘EQ’ discussed below) or that they wanted to be “reborn as a boy”, is not so common and the director indicated that what these children have gone through has forced them to mature and find words to describe/define themselves. Willings noted, “I began to meet kids who had such a deep knowing about themselves – that something about who they were told they should be just wasn’t right – and they knew it with such clarity, so early, I knew I had to amplify their beautiful voices.”

“Beauty” was shot in 10 days over a period of roughly 2 years as Willings had to gain the trust of each subject to ensure their best unfiltered unpolluted representation. She had to make sure that they were comfortable being who they are and feel safe, but as they were all kids it proved to be a challenge that she willingly took on. “Working with kids, although delightful, was also a challenge, but a good one. I had to be really present and willing to adjust on a dime, kids don’t stand around waiting for you to make your mind up – and when they’ve had enough, they let you know!”

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“Beauty” Director Christina Willings

As Willings reiterated, the idea of “feeling safe” was fundamental for the kids and parents alike. Although the first half of the film surprisingly does not really feature the parents, she included them later on to highlight the importance of showing that “the kids were loved and safe” in their environment. They probably would have not become who they are, so comfortably or openly, if it wasn’t for these amazing parents who decided to trust her with their family-stories. She described this process: “I pulled the threads of a few connections I already had and made some more – I reached out to people within the gender creative community and began to work to establish trust … and they put me through quite the extended family smell test! I loved it actually! I loved all of it – I was thrilled to have deep conversations about trust and exposure with all of the parents. It’s an indispensable part of earning the right to tell anyone’s story in my view – particularly children’s stories, and most especially trans children’s stories.”

As challenging as a project like “Beauty” can be, Christina Willings succeeded in delivering a very touching and informative piece displaying her knowledge and expertise. She has worked in various companies (as a legal editor, doing poetry on the side, working in a health food store, in women’s shelters and Rape Crisis centres) but has been in the film & TV industry for more than 20 years, She has done it “the long way!” learning through experience, starting as a locations PA “like everyone else,” working in nearly every department before settling in set decoration and becoming a senior Union member (Art Direction). She, also started her company with a colleague in 2011 as she realized she “wanted to be closer to the creative process” and went on to write, produce, direct multiple acclaimed films, broadcast documentaries and also factual TV programs for Discovery, History, Slice, HGTV, Discovery ID, Global and OWN.

Willings is now working at TELUS, commissioning and producing original stream of content, but she revealed that she still has a plan for another important and profound project in the vein of “Beauty”: “I’m fully occupied with other peoples’ projects at the moment! However, when I look down the road, after this experience with “Beauty”, using a more drama/doc hybrid style of shooting, I know I’d love to explore that more.”

“Beauty” screens at The Coast is Genderqueer on Friday 17 August 2018 at 5:00 pm
At SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.


EQ”, directed by Anika Syskakis, a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker specializing in social justice and inclusivity, follows local DJ Orene Askew aka DJ O Show.

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The short documentary observes and explores the interesting life and career of the Indigenous-African-Canadian/American multi-hyphenate (DJ, entertainer, entrepreneur, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Nation council member, and music instructor) as she talks about her work, her identity, her sexuality, and her understanding of the world. As Syskakis explained “This film originally started as a documentary focused on female and gender non-identifying DJs in Vancouver. Orene Askew, better known as DJ O SHOW was one of the subjects of the film. After spending time with her, I realized that her story needed to be told individually.” As the camera follows Askew in her daily activities and through the various interviews, viewers get a sense of the person she is, learn about her path to finding herself and her passion for empowering people like her or encouraging the youth in her community.

While delving into the duality or multitude of her person, her ethnicity, her self-identification as a two-spirit person, the film also addresses questions and issues around representations or lack of diverse representation in the media; especially when it comes to First Nations peoples.

EQ” not only presents us with a portrait of a complex individual but it also manages to put things in perspective with its self-conscious or self-reflexive style, which might be why Syskakis was the right director. She remarked, “Film is such a vehicle for empathy and understanding – it allows the viewer to be part of something, be it a movement or worldview, outside their everyday experience.”

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“EQ” director Anika Syskakis

Being first an Anthropology graduate, Syskakis mentioned that she has “Always been so intrigued by humans and their stories, from our own local communities to worldwide.” She then studied Documentary Film Production as she understood that it was a great way to blend her two passions. “I yearned for a deeper worldwide cultural understanding to build upon my worldly experience … filmmaking would allow me to support the sharing of stories, while promoting human connectedness, with such potential of reach,” Syskakis added.

Now, a seasoned filmmaker described as “Committed to shining light on topics that spark empathy through diverse stories,” Syskakis has work featured on platforms including CBC ARTS, Out in Schools and various festivals before making “EQ” – that she said was not so easy to make: “I made this film with a VERY small budget. This meant that the filming, sound, lighting, and editing were all executed solo. This definitely proved to be a challenge, but it also taught me so much about all sides of the filmmaking process.” – is ready to tackle a new empowering story. “My current project is a documentary film named “Dancing Through”. It is the story of powwow dancer and metis jigger, Madelaine McCallum, and her journey through cancer of the breast.”

“EQ” screen at The Coast is Queer on Friday, August 17 at the York Theatre at 9:00pm.

Hannâ B works in the industry and writes about Films & TV Shows on her blog What2watch2night.com.

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Button Out! & Pass The Salt: WIFTV Members with Films at VQFF 2018 Part One

The 30th Vancouver Queer Film Festival is officially underway and one of our WIFTV blog writers, Hanna B, recently took a moment to catch up with five WIFTV members with films screening at the festival. 

Button Out! is a video art project about the power of buttons by Kathleen Mullen, and while this short short-film seems like a fun-to-watch spot in between longer heavier piece, do not be fooled!

Still from Button Out!

Still from Button Out!

The tiny pins and buttons shown above all carry their own stories. While some buttons are a call to action, others are a humorous token. By simply filming them successively on the same jacket, the viewer is invited to imagine whether they were worn in a celebratory manner at marches, or casually sported to let others know who you are and what causes you support, or maybe, they were fearlessly displayed as an act of defiance and bravery during a darker time.

In Button Out, Kathleen Mullen tells a new story about the history of the simple yet effective art of using buttons to make a statement. She explains, “buttons change as our times and issues do, and more than ever we have to be vigilant about fighting for our history and our present-day rights. This is a rallying cry.”

Kathleen, who has contributed to film and art festivals for 20 + years (including Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Inside Out Toronto, Planet in Focus, and VQFF), first got the idea of making this short when she saw the collection of over 1500 buttons at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. She said, “I felt there was a lot of potential to play with the visual appeal of the buttons and their defiant, provocative, and courageous messages.” Furthermore, she was inspired by her “own love of buttons” which she wore them over the years at marches, protests, pride events. “Buttons speak to me in a profound way as they encompass so many experiences that I have had in the queer community since I came out in 1985.”

Kathleen Mullen, Director of Button Out!

(Fun Fact: Kathleen actually own one of the pins shown in the movie! She revealed: “I have the pronoun button that is the last button in the film.”)

As straightforward as it seems, the film did not come without a challenge as the director stated, “I was living in Vancouver and I had to travel to Toronto to shoot the film in the archives so I had to make a lot of logistical arrangements. But really it was organizing all the buttons, and trying to pin them on the red leather jacket without them falling off!”

‘Button Out!’ will be playing at VQFF next week but Kathleen plans to put the film online after “so that people can see this amazing collection.” She also has few things on her plate that we can look forward to, as she concluded “I have a couple of short films to finish and one I have to re-edit. I am working on getting a bit of funding to finish them. And then I am trying to write a feature. At the moment I have returned for a seasonal contract as Festival Programming Director of Twist: Seattle Queer Film Festival.”

Button Out! screens on Sunday, August 12 at International Village at 4:30pm just before Sarah Fodey’s The Fruit Machine


 

Directed, written, and produced by WIFTV members Panta Mosleh & Hayley Gray, Pass The Salt is a lively comedy about two women of different faiths, Jewish and Muslim, trying to find a way to reveal their love—and announce their wedding plan—to their traditional families, all gathered together at a luncheon. Between jokes, arguments, culture clash, and a Pictionary-like game, this animated gathering turns from confrontational to peaceful and friendly as the film tells a story of “love and acceptance.”

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The short uses the familiar soap-like appeal, found in many comedies about lovers from different backgrounds, to its advantage in order to convey its message. As Panta attested, “I always try to wrap an important message with a sweet flavour of comedy. It always makes it easier to swallow the facts that way.” As to the style of the film, she then added, “The feel of the film was influenced by big middle-eastern family dinners that I have been through. The closest thing I could compare it to would be My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the middle eastern version.” Hayley later explained that to give a genuine quality to the piece they “Brought in actors from the Muslim and Jewish communities and worked with community organizations that were able to help us better frame our discussion.”

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Left to Right, Hayley Gray & Panta Mosleh

Hayley, who started as an actor then made her way behind the scenes in production roles, reinforced this idea of authenticity as she shared how Panta was a huge inspiration, drawing from her own life experiences as a source of insight for Pass The Salt. Panta, who has also been in the industry since a very young age, first as an actress on Iranian TV, then working in Japan, and now an established member of the industry here in Canada, revealed, “As a bisexual woman of color myself coming from a family that has one side with a super religious Islamic beliefs and the other side with a more modern non religious conservative side. I knew that a situation would and could arise that I might possibly pick a female as a life partner.” And, as the project began to form in her head, she asserted in her director’s statement, “I thought to myself how would the encounter with both families go and how would I hope for it to turn out, so I explored that idea.” From there she went on to work on the script and processed it for about a year before approaching Hayley to co-direct the film with her.

Although Pass The Salt was not without any challenges when asked about difficulties the directors replied, “This film definitely did have setbacks, we worked on many grants and pitches, none of which moved forward which meant finding the people, the locations, gear, and actors with only ourselves for support.” Hayley and Panta are now, “Working on reimagining Pass the Salt into a series and are excited to see where that leads!”

Pass the Salt screens with EQ at The Coast is Queer on Friday, August 17 at the York Theatre at 9:00pm. 

Hanna B. works in the industry and writes about Films & TV Shows on her blog What2watch2night.com.

VIWIFF Screenplay Competition 2019: 5 Tips Before You Submit

By Joan Macbeth, VIWIFF Screenplay Competition Coordinator

The next deadline to submit your script is approaching! Here are 5 tips to follow before you press that submit button on ISA, FilmFreeway or Withoutabox.

  1. This may seem obvious, but double-check the rules! Page-count matters. If you have over 120 pages, or under 80 pages, chances are your script needs another edit. The VIWIFF Screenplay Competition is for feature-length screenplays, so please don’t submit your TV pilot or short film script. And a “blind” title page? What does that even mean? It means that when we assign your script to our jury readers, they don’t know who the author is, so they cannot be influenced by what you might have written before, whether or not you have representation or if you are a total newbie. The focus is on your storytelling ability. All three submission portals allow you to upload different versions of your script, so include one with an anonymous title page.
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Lily Mercer, 2016 VIWIFF Screenplay Competiton Winner

  1. Make the first few pages count. Grab the reader with action and a hook. A strong opening image is great; but no need to waste the first few pages world building – you can circle back to that after page 10 or later, if it’s necessary. Introduce your protagonist on the first page, or second at the latest. Readers tend to latch onto the first character introduced, so if it’s not the protagonist, then you risk confusing the reader when the heroine shows up with a late entrance. Jump right into the story.
  2. Apply the Bechdel Test. Some years we’ve used it in the judging criteria, other years not. But it’s always a good policy, particularly if you might be a male/female writing team. (We do accept submissions as long as the team is at least 50% female.)

The Bechdel Test:

The movie has to have at least two women in it,

who talk to each other,

about something besides a man.

  1. How’s your white space? If scene descriptions run long, try to pare them down. Avoid writing camera angles. Give just enough descriptive information for the reader to “see” what’s going on. No need to get inside the characters’ heads or explain their emotions or back-story. Try to keep the narrative to four lines or less per paragraph. While you’re at it, proofread for typos and those little errors that can distract the reader and take them out of the story: their, there & they’re, etc.
  2. Check your dialogue. What’s that you say? Do characters repeat things back to other characters? Not necessary. Are the scenes buttoned with a snappy line of dialogue that propels the story to the next scene? Eliminate extra words like yes, no, um, and overuse of a character’s name. Dialogue should sound more natural than natural speech.
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VIWIFF Screenplay Competition Coordinator, Joan McBeth (left) with the 2018 VIWIFF Screenplay Competition Winner, Jill Taylor

 

Our mission at the VIWIFF Screenplay Competition is to encourage women screenwriters to hone their craft and elevate their careers. We look forward to reading your submissions! The top ten Official Selections will receive a pass to the 2019 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival and the 1st Place Winner will receive a prize package that includes cash, a 12-month ISAConnect membership and other industry bonuses.

 

Next Deadline: July 30, 2018

VIWIFF 2019 is committed to highlighting the best stories the world has to offer that are written by women. Check out our submissions guidelines here!

 

 

Catching Up With Filmmaker & 2017 WIFTV Banff World Media Festival Mentorship Recipient, Heather Hatch

Heather Hatch, 2017 recipient of the Banff World Media Festival Mentorship, is devoted to collaboration and self-reflexivity in her work. With positive media representation of Indigenous women and girls as her focus, Hatch uses her talents in writing and filmmaking to put Indigenous community, language, and values at the forefront of the moving-image screen. Her recent project The Girl Who Talks to the Moon (created in partnership with Rebecca Campbell at Catapult Pictures and Frederick Kroetsch), which was picked up by CBC for a pilot episode, highlights the value of connection to Indigenous culture at a young age—the show revolves around a girl from the Haida Nation, Harmony, and her quest to build a kite for Nanaay (Grandmother) Moon. The pilot beautifully combines stop-motion animation with live-action and engages young audiences in Haida traditions of creativity and language. This success is just the beginning for Hatch; she plans to continue her work as filmmaker concerned with Indigenous voice and collaboration.

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Behind the Scenes Shot of Harmony from “The Girl Who Talks to the Moon.” Photo by Dwayne Martineau.

I spoke with Hatch over the phone one weekday afternoon, just after she had left a meeting regarding her latest endeavour—a documentary about the controversial Site C Dam. I was interested to know more about her process and her goals for this latest work. We talked about these and several other topics, with Hatch’s enthusiasm for collaborative filmmaking and cultural representation shining through with each response.

Sarah Bakke: How did you first find a passion for film?

Heather Hatch: I’d say it was a mixture of things. My friends had been in the industry for a long time, and I often ended up helping them with their projects. In university, I took some film [studies] courses and really liked to write and research, so it all kind of happened naturally.

SB: Yes, you mention a love of writing in your artist bio. You also mention that seeing your writing onscreen is a really inspiring process. Can you elaborate on that experience?

HH: I guess, when I’m trying to think of ways to illustrate a point or a feeling, I try to write what I see in my head. Being able to communicate that through film really got me interested in exploring [the medium] more seriously.

SB: How else has your experience at Banff influenced your career as you’ve moved forward?

HH: I think meeting so many industry experts made it easier to attend future meetings and having to pitch fast makes it easy to define what the thread of your project is. If you can’t see it clearly [as you’re pitching it], perhaps you need to work more on the story. The mentorship from Cynde Harmon was really great, too.

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Heather Hatch (centre) with her mentor Cynde Harmon (left) and WIFTV Treasurer Karen Wong (right)

SB: You mentioned a collaborator in Fort St. John. Can you describe the project that’s in the works currently?

HH: Yeah, I’m currently working on a feature-length documentary called Della and Goliath. It focuses on the Site C Dam that’s being built on treaty land, and on an elder named Della Owens, whose life is deeply affected by this dam. I’m focused on how First Nations’ connection to the land is integral to their identity, and on the [continually perpetuated] destruction story and legacy of Canadian cultural genocide. I also want to say, this project was funded through the 2017 Telefilm Talent Fund.

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SB: You’ve stated that your focus as a filmmaker is to create positive media representations of Indigenous women and girls—have you encountered any challenges or unexpected obstacles in completing that work?

HH: The biggest challenge is constantly educating yourself about the issues, and listening to the community you’re looking to serve [through] telling their stories. For example, I took some Indigenous studies on the history of Canada and its treaties while working on this film, to understand the importance of what’s happening to Treaty 8, and with Site C and in the Fort St. John area. It’s just a constant learning curve.

SB: What are your go-to strategies for overcoming those challenges?

HH: Well, being humble. I think because I work in documentary a lot, [it’s important to] be humble, respect my subject and the information I’m given, to listen, learn, research, and collaborate.

SB: Is there a specific filmmaker, writer, or film movement that has influenced your work?

HH: Yes—the documentary Finding Dawn by Christine Welsh. When I saw this film, I realized how powerful documentary filmmaking could be, and how much important information it could give, and in such a personal way.

SB: What is the most impactful piece of advice that you can give to aspiring filmmakers?

HH: Work with experienced filmmakers as you’re starting out, so you can learn from their experience. Even just having the help [as you’re] learning how to write grants. It helps you develop your own projects. And I would say that collaboration is really important—film is very collaborative in itself, but working with other people can really clarify your ideas. Also, taking classes at your local film co-op creates a supportive environment.

Finally, if there’s an idea or an image that has caught your attention, it’s probably something you are passionate about, and you should focus on it.

Follow the development of Heather’s latest documentary project, Della and Goliath, at #DellaFilm.  

The 2018 WIFTV Banff World Media Festival Mentorship is now accepting applications here.  Read Heather’s guest blog about her time at the Banff World Media Festival here

 

VIWIFF 2018: Best of the Fest On the Shore

This year’s Vancouver International Women in Film Festival was a great success—in turnout, audience participation, and cinematic skill. I miss it already! Luckily, I don’t have to lament it’s end for long. Keeping the festival flame burning is VIWIFF’s Best of the Fest on the Shore, a special presentation at North Vancouver’s Centennial Theatre of some award-winning festival films. Now is your chance to catch three films that perhaps you missed the first time around.

Best of the Fest on the Shore will include a trio of VIWIFF picks: Mascha Schilinski’s Dark Blue Girl (darling of the festival’s award ceremony, winning the IATSE 891 Award for Best Feature, the DGC Award for Best Directing, the Bron Award for Best Screenplay, the CCE Award for Best Editing, and the CFM Award for Best Musical Score), The World in Your Window (a New Zealand short film directed by Zoe McIntosh, which won the Side Street Award for Best Short), and local filmmaker Crystal Lowe’s The Curtain (winner of one of the Matrix Awards).

From its first images, elemental and disorienting, Dark Blue Girl leads us into a world both familiar and startling. When Luca’s separated parents, Jimmy and Hannah, finally find a buyer for their holiday home on the Greek volcano island of Santorini, the disjointed family returns to the place where they split up two years ago. Suddenly, the young girl faces an emotional environment now much changed, as her mother and father reignite a dormant passion. The magic and intensity of childhood provide Dark Blue Girl’s through-line, as Luca’s viewpoint reveals the strange ties that bind people together, whether they like it or not.

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“Dark Blue Girl” directed by Mascha Schilinski (Germany)

Jury response to Dark Blue Girl was strong. It was said that “the pacing of the film was exquisite. It was deliberate and on point within the context of the story… many scenes were cut so perfectly that they linger in the mind for days. [Dark Blue Girl] was a brilliant film [containing] beautifully observed characters and many poignant and memorable scenes. A rare and deeply moving look at this family triangle. The jealousies of childhood are brilliantly captured in this film. Illuminating!”

The World in Your Window follows eight-year-old Jesse, who lives in a twilight world of sadness and silence, squeezed into a tiny caravan with his grief-stricken father. They’re in limbo, existing more than living. The child intuitively understands that looking forward is harder than looking back; that’s where life happens. But they are stuck until an exceptional connection unlocks the means for Jesse to liberate his father and himself. A hopeful story about a surprising act of kindness.

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“The World in Your Window” directed by Zoe McIntosh

The jury loved The World in Your Window’s subtlety and storyline. In the words of the jury: “The World in Your Window speaks of loss and connection. With little dialogue, this satisfying film visually leads you through a story of a father’s grief, a child’s ability to cope, and an unlikely friendship. [It is a] film that surprises and touches your heart.”

And finally, The Curtain tells a tender and moving tale of two hospitalized strangers who develop a unique understanding of each others’ experiences. Through the safety and anonymity of the room’s curtain divider, they reveal painful, intimate details about their lives.

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“The Curtain” directed by Crystal Lowe

Winner of one Matrix Award, jury members found The Curtain notable for its “lovely, subtle moments between two people whose lives are more similar than they know. A story about pain that is also a story about hope and connection You see it in the performances as well as the colour palette of the film. [The Curtain displays a] very creative and satisfying concept and excellent execution.”

Come! Revel once more in these three films’ drama, intrigue, and warmth! Thank you to the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival, for providing yet another opportunity to engage with outstanding cinema made by women.

Check out the full list of VIWIFF award winners here and get your tickets here for the Best of the Fest on the Shore.

This event has been made possible thanks to the support of

VIWIFF 2018: Meet the Filmmakers

German filmmaker Claudia Vogt has learned that intuition is tantamount to a film’s success. Trust your gut, she says, and a project will flourish. Her latest film, titled Golden Hour, subtly and sensitively explores the refugee crisis as it affects Germany; she offers viewers a chance to more closely understand the way Germany’s children see a politically and socially charged situation. When asked about the inspiration behind Golden Hour, Vogt said that Germany’s political conversation surrounding Syrian and Iraqi refugees deserved an artistic perspective, and a more intimate one—she “decided to go to a place where children from different cultural, ethnic and social origin come in contact [with each other] every day; at a school.” Her intuition led her correctly, and soon Golden Hour had the full support of the school community, as well as Vogt’s own filmmaking sphere. The result is, as you will soon see during the festival, a delicate and endearing (but still politically resonant) look into the lives of Germany’s most vulnerable, and arguably most insightful, people—it’s children.

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This nuance is perhaps a skill Vogt absorbed while watching the films of Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky, both of whom she cites as major inspirations. She felt a great connection to “their films’ specific imagery and [style of] storytelling, especially how much they knew about the human soul.” Attention to the more transient and ephemeral aspects of human life—it’s soulfulness—is certainly present in Golden Hour. We observe an elementary-school janitor make his rounds from empty classroom to empty classroom, sunlight streaming in through the windows, as he follows the traces left by youngsters full of promise, hope, and imagination. The delightfully candid voices of children narrate his journey, speaking about the goings on of their day at school but also of the adversity they face after migration.

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Vogt’s skill and the strength of her film’s theme allowed her access to funding through the Berlin Project Fund for Cultural Education, a regional support fund for the arts. She says that Germany’s awareness surrounding gender inequality in the film industry has grown, and that funding is a key element in the country’s efforts towards equal opportunity, but that there is always more work to be done. “Of course,” she says, “we need more women in the film industry. Quite clearly, we as female filmmakers still have a lot to do to bring about change and to assert ourselves.” After watching Golden Hour, it is clear that the assertions of Germany’s female filmmakers are exceptionally worthy of the public’s attention. Vogt’s artistry as a filmmaker, combined with her aforementioned intuition, certainly solidifies the need for female perspectives, if that need wasn’t already obvious.

Another German filmmaker whose newest film will be screening at this year’s festival is Claudia Euen—her documentary, In the Shade of the Apple Tree, similarly explores the soulfulness of human life, with equal success. “In the Shade of the Apple Tree is a very personal film,” Euen says. “It was a long process of research, over many years, into my own family history. I decided to make a film to tell the sweet story of my grandparents. To me, they were an extraordinary couple. The starting point of my research was when my own relationship ended; I asked myself with even more intensity, how did they do it? How could their love survive over all those years?” In the Shade follows Ilse and Wolfgang Gutsche, who have been married for 65 incredible years; together, they have faced four social orders, the raising of children, growing old, and all manner of life’s ups and downs. Their love and respect for each other are palpable through the screen. This is certainly due, at least in part, to Euen’s familial connection with Ilse and Wolfgang (she is their granddaughter, after all). But the power of this story also lies in its slow, steady progression; the care and contentment that Ilse and Wolfgang feel as a couple is mirrored by the camera’s repose. A love’s strength lies in its moments of stillness and quietude, so In the Shade would suggest. In Euen’s words, “the film feels very slow because everything moves slowly in their life. The camera is fixed, and life develops before [its lens].”

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Euen made her documentary with a very small crew, and shouldered much of the production work in addition to her role as director. Thankfully, she was able to secure funding from Germany’s government resources—otherwise, we might have never had the opportunity to meet Ilse and Wolfgang. However, Euen states that her success with government funding is not the experience of all female filmmakers. “In Germany, half of all students in film schools are female, but when you look at [the allocation of] funding and awards, there are far more men than women,” she says. “The chief of the MDM (Filmfund in central Germany) said once, that only 25 percent of project applications are from women. Another big problem is that most juries who decide [where the money goes] contain more men than women. This is a big subject of discussion.” Institutional barriers preventing women’s voices from being widely heard are internationally felt, it seems. As, unfortunately, one might expect.

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But hope and consolation are not hard to find, especially with superb cinema such as Golden Hour and In the Shade of the Apple Tree available to enjoy. How lucky are we, to have the work of emerging artists such as Vogt and Euen on Vancouver screens? Not only will their films be screening at this year’s festival, but both filmmakers will be in attendance during the International Women in Film Festival’s bloc of artist talks, taking place on Friday, March 9th. When asked how they feel about travelling to Vancouver and participating in the festival, both stated their enthusiastic excitement. Vogt said that she “is greatly looking forward to attending the festival, meeting other filmmakers, and talking about our films. I am excited and feel honoured. I am sure this journey will be a great experience.” Similarly, Euen expressed enthusiasm for the work of other filmmakers, stating that she is “really looking forward to coming to Canada—to seeing the country, presenting my film to an international audience, and to meeting and talking with people about film and future projects.” I can’t wait to hear more from Vogt and Euen during their time at VIWIFF—cinematic insight will abound!

-Sarah Bakke

In the Shade of the Apple Tree  is screening at 8:30 PM on Wednesday, March 7th with the short film about a man and his cat, KisGet tickets now!

The Golden Hour is screening at 9 PM on Friday, March 9th in the Symbols and Survival shorts block of international gems. Get tickets now!

The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs from March 6 – 11th, 2018 at the Vancity Theatres. Don’t miss a diverse selection of local and international short and feature films as well as the workshops, artist talks, parties, panels, & more! Click here for more info on the festival.

Sarah Bakke currently interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.

VIWIFF 2018 Screenplay Competition Announces 2018 Finalists

This year’s screenplay competition was nearly too close to call! However, after much evaluation through three rounds of judging, we are excited to name our three finalists. One will be chosen to receive the Ken Hayward Award for Best Screenplay at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival Awards Ceremony on Sunday, March 11th.

Ellie Foumbi is an actor/writer/director born in Cameroon, now living in New York and represented by UTA in Los Angeles. Her award-winning short film “Zenith” was a semifinalist in the 44th Student Academy Awards. In her feature-length screenplay “Zenith,” an adopted black Mennonite leaves the rural white community she was raised in and travels to an inner-city neighbourhood to find her biological mother. In the process, she discovers what it means to be black.

Jill Taylor is a British-Canadian screenwriter based out of Toronto. A graduate of the Second City Comedy Writing Program in Chicago, she recently won Best Sitcom Pilot at the 2017 Austin Film Festival. She is represented by Meridian Artists.  “I Need A Hero,” tells the story of a former space hero with a secret who is called on to save the world again – this time with her teenage daughter in tow.

As a freelance writer, Sheri Davenport has been the creative force behind dozens of videos for major corporations and non-profit organizations. She has written a produced short film and a TV pilot and has optioned eleven screenplays/treatments. Her screenplays have won or reached finalist status in a number of writing competitions and film festivals, including the 2015 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival’s inaugural screenplay competition. Welcome back, Sheri, with “Sins of the Father” – when a single mom learns that the sociopath who raped her has a legal right to custody of the child conceived from that rape, she’ll do whatever it takes to protect her son.

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From L – R: Ellie Foumbi, Jill Taylor, & Sheri Davenport

Congratulations to our top three… and one more!

Vancouver writer Sophie Naima Caird’s work has been featured on numerous television shows, and she’s worked in writing rooms in Toronto and Los Angeles. We’re pleased to give Sophie an honourable mention for her first feature script “When He Gets to Her” – a neo-noir where a voyeur with a criminally astute sense of justice runs a service where he kills people who want to die… until his feelings for one of his clients force him into a difficult choice.

A free screenwriting Artists’ Talk at the festival is scheduled for 1:30-2:30pm on Saturday, March 10th, with some of our Finalists and Official Selection screenwriters in attendance. Please join us!

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The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs from March 6 – 11th, 2018 at the Vancity Theatres. Don’t miss a diverse selection of local and international short and feature films as well as the workshops, artist talks, parties, panels, & more!

Click here for more info!

 

VIWIFF 2018: Indigenous Perspectives

In our final series of festival suggestions, Indigenous talent takes precedence. Films made by both local and not-so-local (but still Canadian!) Indigenous filmmakers can be found throughout the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival schedule, but two blocs, in particular, are full of First Nations content—Indigenous Voices and Family and Friendship. Skillfully told and beautifully crafted, these stories are not to be missed! Here are a few choice titles that I think are especially worth making time for.

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“The Rive of Silence” Written by Petie Chalifoux

Local screenwriter Petie Chalifoux (in collaboration with director Micheal Auger—a husband-and-wife duo!) debuts her latest feature, River of Silence, at this year’s fest. Helen (Mariel Belanger) lives with her husband Nathan (Stan Isadore) in present-day Vancouver. They are forced to navigate the horror of a missing and murdered child when their daughter, Tanis, disappears en route to visit extended family. As the evidence begins to suggest a close connection between the killer and the community, an even more troubling tale emerges. Chalifoux navigates an important topic with depth and sensitivity, delving into the pain of grief amidst the unknown, and draws upon her own personal experience of a similar struggle.

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“The Roundhouse” Directed by Theresa Warbus

Theresa Warbus’ The Roundhouse (another B.C. production!) connects the social struggles of high school with one girl’s Ojibwe identity and celebrates triumph over the traps of peer pressure. Liya is caught between the social demands of her classmates and the traditions of her Ojibwe culture. She must make a tough decision about who she is and who she ultimately wants to be. Warbus’ film expertly weaves together different perspectives across a cultural divide, with the resilient Liya as our guide.

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“The Last Walk” by directors Anna Hoover, Johannes Lynge, and Jerri Thrasher (Northwest Territories, Greenland, USA)

Finally, from the Family and Friendship bloc, the distinct visions of three Indigenous filmmakers come together in The Last Walk, a stitched-together collection of three works of short fiction, all produced by the Arctic Film Circle. The films weave together both traditional and contemporary storytelling techniques, ultimately representing a new wave of Indigenous films in the Arctic—one that pays homage to history as well as empowers a generation of modern storytellers. Directors Anna Hoover, Jerri Thrasher, and Johannes Lynge all take on similar themes of familial loss, isolation, and second chances—to divergent ends.

And thus, my series of recommendations concludes with a collection of films chosen for their variety, creative merit, and cinematic skill. I hope you enjoy these films just as much as I do! Happy film-watching!

-Sarah Bakke

Rive of Silence screens during the Indigenous Voices program at 2:30 PM on Thursday, March 8th. Free event; Click here to register.

The Roundhouse screens during the High Stakes program at 3:15 Pm on Saturday, March 10th. Buy Tickets.

The Last Walk screens during the Friends & family program at 4:15 Pm on Sunday, March 11th. Buy Tickets.

The Indigenous Filmmaking Panel is a free event on Sunday, March 11th at 2:45 PM moderated by Doreen Manuel (Secwepemc/Ktunuxa First Nations) filmmaker and Coordinator/Instructor of Indigenous Independent Digital Filmmaking at Capilano University. Free event; Click here to register.

The Vancouver International Women in Film Festival runs from March 6th – 11th at the Vancity Theatres in Vancouver. Click here for the full festival schedule.

Get your tickets now

Sarah Bakke currently interns at WIFTV, where she gets to write all kinds of film-related material––a cinephile’s dream! When she’s not scribbling film notes or watching movies, Sarah can be found at The Cinematheque as a weekend theatre manager and online at SAD Magazine, in her role as web editor.